Moby’s ‘Play’ Turns 20

Looking back at Moby’s groundbreaking masterpiece.

It’s been 20 years since Moby dropped what was then supposed to be his final album. It wasn’t, but it may as well have been.

With heavy rotation on MTV and a groundbreaking licensing deal that saw its songs features in movies, TV and commercials, Play was a commercial phenomenon, best remembered for singles like “Honey,” “Porcelain,” “Natural Blues,” “Bodyrock,” “Run On” and “South Side,” the last of which features vocals from Gwen Stefani.

Fusing alt rock with electronica, the album is filled with captivating samples and bits of old blues, gospel and R&B. All these elements work perfectly with Moby’s idiosyncratic songwriting. He can’t help but revert to his old techno days on “Machete,” just so we don’t forget where he came from.

To me, however, the best songs on Play lie past the hits. The late album triplet of “Guitar Flute & String,” “The Sky Is Broken” and “My Weakness” is all so dreamy and full of such feeling. I remember listening to those songs on my late night playlist when I went to bed as a teen.

I still think that “This Is My Weakness” is one of Moby’s most beautiful songs, and still nobody ever mentions it. In that way, even with its remarkable success, Play is underrated.